Santa Catarina is a small state in southern Brazil that is one of Brazil’s most pleasant surprises. No, it doesn’t have the glitz and glamor of Rio de Janeiro or the immense size of the Amazon Rainforest, but it does have dramatic landscapes that aren’t overrun with tourists. Santa Catarina’s coast is lined with white-sand beaches and charming resort towns, while its interior is home to sizable peaks and small alpine towns.
Florianopolis is the highlight of Santa Catarina’s coast and the state’s capital city. The city has an interesting geography, as part of the city is on the Brazilian mainland and the other half is on an island, officially known as Santa Catarina Island, but colloquially called Florianopolis.
This island is what makes Florianopolis such an amazing place to visit, as there are over 40 beaches and a number of scenic locales. In the summer locals and tourists alike usually spend the day surfing, swimming, or lying out in the sun—perhaps at the Praia de Galheta nudist beach.
Another hot spot on the island is Lagoa da Conceição, a lake on the island’s east coast. Only a short walk from the beach, this town has a festive atmosphere and a ton of restaurants and bars. In the summer there are often concerts and festivals near the lake.
Make sure to allocate some of your time for the city of Florianopolis itself, though, as the city is one of the most charming in all of Brazil. Tiled streets and colonial-era buildings provide the perfect backdrop for the city’s happening nightlife and many sidewalk cafes.
A two-hour drive inland from Florianopolis and the landscape of Santa Catarina takes a dramatic turn, as the tropical forests and beaches are replaced with snow-capped mountains and alpine forests.
The town of Urubici, at an altitude of 6,000 feet, is the coldest city in Santa Catarina. It’s a small town that has a bit of a German feel, as Santa Catarina was a popular destination for German immigrants in the early 20th century.
The highlight of Urubici is the surrounding scenery. Hire a tour guide and a jeep to best explore the rugged terrain. There are small towns, ranches, rock formations, rivers and large waterfalls all waiting to be discovered. Return to Urubici after a long day in the mountains to enjoy dinner at one of Urubici’s many barbecue restaurants.